Patrol: Teen driver in fatal wreck had used marijuana

16-year-old crashed vehicle into tree, killing three back-seat passengers.
TNS Regional News
Aug 27, 2014

 

The 16-year-old driver of a car that crashed into a tree near Alexandria in June, killing his three back-seat passengers, tested positive for marijuana, but there’s debate about what that means.

The State Highway Patrol turned over the results of both the toxicology and crash-scene investigation to the Licking County prosecutor’s office on Monday.

No charges had yet been filed against the driver, Jaylynn Rigio, 16. Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt said that it might be a couple of weeks before a decision is made.

“Now that we have an answer as to what was in his system, we need to determine what effect it had on him,” Oswalt said.

The State Highway Patrol’s investigation also revealed that Rigio was driving at speeds estimated to be between 76 and 82 miles per hour when the car flipped and struck a tree, top first, on Hardscrabble Road, a rural two-lane road in Licking County.

The car, a 2003 Mitsubishi Diamante belonging to Rigio’s grandmother, split in half upon impact, flinging the back half into a farmhouse yard, with the front spinning out onto the road.

Killed were Michael Hoskinson, 17, Linzie Bell, 15, and Cheyenne Spurgeon, 15.

A front-seat passenger, Ashton Cody, 16, and Rigio were injured.

The five teens were en route to a favorite area swimming hole. Lt. Kevin Miller, the Granville post commander, said that toxicology tests on the three passengers who were killed showed no detectable traces of drugs or alcohol.

Rigio had earned his driver’s license only two months earlier. Ohio law prohibits a 16-year-old driver from transporting more than one passenger unless a parent is in the vehicle.

“I don’t see any issue with him being charged,” Oswalt said. “It’s a matter of determining what level of charges the evidence supports.”

Oswalt said that becomes more difficult in cases involving marijuana.

State law says that a person can be charged with driving under the influence if the concentration of THC, the marijuana metabolite revealed in testing, exceeds 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.

Rigio’s blood tested at 45.7 ng/mL.

Rigio’s attorney, Rob Calesaric, said the State Highway Patrol is applying the wrong interpretation of Ohio’s complicated DUI statute.

He said the 5-nanogram level applies only if prosecutors can prove that Rigio was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash, and “they have no evidence of impairment. I don’t see any evidence of marijuana consumption that day at all.”

Calesaric said that without proof of impairment, the state minimum is 50 ng/mL, which Rigio didn’t reach.

Determining whether the presence of a marijuana metabolite in the bloodstream was a contributing cause of the accident gets complicated.

“The effects of marijuana are not as well established (as the effects of alcohol) on performance impairment,” Oswalt said.

Oswalt cited a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fact sheet that said, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”

Still, the fact sheet says that “marijuana has been shown to impair performance on driving simulators and open and closed driving courses for up to about three hours.”

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By Eric Lyttle - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

lugnut2511

It's such a tragedy and my condolences and prayers go out to all involved. I know when I was younger and testing the waters, when I would smoke a little or alot of weed, the only thing it did for me when I was driving, was make me paranoid, that would in turn make me drive alot slower than most everyone else on the same roadway I was sharing with. Most of my friends would tell me the same thing, cars would be passing them cause they all be paranoid. I know we aren't all the same and react differently, but com on man.......

JMOP's picture
JMOP

So you would say it alters your way of thinking and judgement?

I only ask because I've never been high, and wonder what's with the fascination of pot being better than alcohol. They both make you feel in an unnatural state somehow.

Jonathan Christman

Seriously, because you were high all you and your high friends noticed was that you were driving slow? So did you drive faster when you were stoned because you thought you were going too slow? Well I guess since that is all that ever happened to you, it probably wasn't the weed in this case either (sarcasm). Don't be stupid, driving while high is just as bad as driving while drunk, maybe worse because idiot people, like you, don't think it is affecting you so you try to function as you would if you were not high. I am all for legalizing pot by the way, but I don't think people should be driving or working while high.

itsoknow67

Pull the plug on him, just like he did other 3.

ladydye_5

When I'm drunk I am just a bit slower. Nothing wrong with me just slow and happy. I guess I would be ok to drive. I would just be slower than everyone else. Everyone reacts different , but COME (with an E) on man......

JMOP's picture
JMOP

I'm also a happy drunk, but more bold than usual. I also get sleepy fast. I'm a lightweight though. Two beers then a buzz, three I'm drunk.

jamie9700

I can't stand alcohol. After struggling to down half of bottle of beer I'd just lose interest. Give me an ice cold Pepsi and I'm good to go.

Now The Rest of...

Yet they promote marijuana as harmless?

Dr. Information

But wait, pot doesn't kill remember. Legalize it and we will see more and more senseless deaths like this.

MJ suppresses the body and slows down reaction time.

I'd drink one beer and be good to go and legal. I'd smoke one joint and be completely trashed and unable to drive at all.

exoticnoise420

I bet this kid would have wrecked weather he had smoke weed or not. Weed didn't make him drive 20+ miles hr. Over the speed limit.or have more than one passenger in the car with him. His parents/grandparents let him take the car and have more than one passenger when he had only 2 months of driving experience. And since he happens to have smoked marijuana in the last couple days of the accident, marijuana takes the wrap. It was more than just marijuana that caused this tragedy.

itsoknow67

They should give him what he gave his friends.a free ride outta here.